I have my doubts about the name Race Injection. It sounds as if the game should either be a Japanese gameshow based around speed-vaccinations, or a horrific plot by white supremacist chemists to further their evil goals.
It’s actually neither of those things (I know, I thought they were rich material for videogames too). Instead, it’s a re-packaged and re-released version of Simbin’s Race 07: The Official World Touring Car Championship Game, complete with various expansions issued for the game. That is to say, Formula RaceRoom, WTCC 2010, STCC The Game 2, GT Power and ‘the Retro expansion.’
In bare statistical terms, this means the release now has 85 individual car models and more than 40 different tracks from around the world. That’s a lot of touring cars.
What you won’t find here is any other updates or additions. Race Injection is a straightforward game-plus-DLC bundle, not a graphical overhaul or a ‘re-imagining’ of any kind. That means the same visuals as when the original Race 07 was released in, well, 2007.
It makes a nice change for a game to be urging me to up the graphics settings (a neat feature, it watches your FPS and suggests settings accordingly). But since I’m still rocking an X1950 Pro in my PC, it doesn’t say much for the power required to max out the eye-treats. Personally, I was pretty pleased to be able to shove sliders up to ‘high’ for the first time since about 2008, but anyone hoping for some car pin-up action on a par with Gran Turismo should look elsewhere. The visuals do the job, without ever being spectacular.
There don’t appear to have been any patches or bugfixes applied to this re-release either, so if you own Race 07 and most (or all) of the DLC, this really isn’t for you.
Which rather prompts the question: who is this for?
As someone whose entire World Touring Car Championship knowledge could be tucked inside a very small exhaust pipe, I can confirm that one answer is “not really for me, apparently”. I prefer my racing titles as arcadey as possible (hey, I drive an automatic in real life, ok?) My ideal kind of racer is.
Race Injection is pretty much the polar opposite of that game. It’s a hardcore simulator, where things like tire pressure might actually make a significant difference to your times. Races have qualifying laps, confusing rules about not overtaking when there’s been a crash on the track, and corners that will magnetically lure you off the course unless you take them correctly. You might even have to use your wing-mirrors. Egad.
In fairness, Race Injection does let you tinker with almost every option imaginable, so you can tailor your experience until it’s somewhere between ‘inept games reviewer unfamiliar with touring cars’ and ‘is basically a professional touring car champion in real life’.
Even with the difficulty set to ‘Novice’ (which I assume is roughly analogous to ‘trained chimp behind the wheel’), life in the fast lane was quite tricky. My first experience of driving a Mini around Brands Hatch quickly turned to embarrassment when my pit crew informed me that I was driving the wrong way. Oh dear. Then I sped my vehicle into a crash barrier and broke the suspension. Oh dearer.
That put me at the back of the grid for the race proper, but I was lucky enough to spy a shortcut on the course.
Sure, there were some cones blocking it off, but I was pretty confident they were just a bluff.
What the … disqualified? Damn, that’s harsh.
I fared much better on a completely oval track in Mexico, where I hopped behind the wheel of a Honda and violently rammed my way into contention. This kind of brutal driving is only really a viable tactic on Novice, but hey, it’s fun.
It also got me on the podium. Justification, right there.
Still flushed with success, I was delighted to find out that Race Injection would let me drive a cereal box on wheels.
Putting it to the test in Sweden, I was somewhat alarmed to discover that the track was narrower than the pavement outside my apartment. Naturally enough, this was a recipe for failure.
… And also for carnage.
Putting my flippancy aside for a second, Race Injection is a pretty neat simulator. If you’re a follower of the WTCC and don’t already own Race07 (perhaps unlikely, since it seems to be a leading game for that license), it’s worth a look for the sheer number of courses and variety of tweaks you can make to craft exactly the type of racing experience you’re after.
A gamepad is definitely recommended (keys and mouse just feel seriously weird, like you’re trying to drive an actual car via remote control from an office), though given the level of realism being aimed for here it’s probably best suited to an actual steering wheel controller. Bonus points if you have a full racing chair and pedals set up in your living room. That’s most likely what most of the people playing multiplayer are using (there’s a thriving community, presumably thanks to Race 07). If you want to dip into racing against actual humans though, you’ll need to perfect your skills and learn how to mingle. The majority of games are set to at least ‘semi-pro’ and tend to be password protected.
An obvious stuttering point for the game is its age. While there are some updated courses and cars (thanks to the DLC), and it’s possible to customise the heck out of any championships you undertake, the fact is that the bulk of the game is rooted in 2006/2007. Given that the demographic this title is being (re)aimed at crave authenticity, this could be a significant problem. It seems kind of like releasing a ‘retro’ version of Football Manager based in a strange 2006 vortex where Arsenal can still defend properly.
I’m also no closer to figuring out precisely who’ll be buying this title. It presumably doesn’t cost Simbin very much to re-package Race 07 with some extras, but surely the number of people who want to re-purchase just for the DLC can’t be all that high? Perhaps a few extra incentives for current owners of Race 07 (like some new graphical finery, or an updated WTCC roster) might have been in order, to tempt them into buying once again.
Beyond the hardcore racing sim crowd, I can’t see there being too much interest here; but for that particular set of fans, this game can provide the realistic challenge they seek.